Demand 1: The government of NCT of Delhi should add 10,000 buses to Delhi’s fleet
A lack of sufficient public transportation facilities will lead to a rise in usage of private vehicles, which unfortunately, is also a significant contributor to urban air pollution. Studies suggest that the private passenger cars account for about 73% of urban air pollutants. In contrast with public transportation systems, they generate about three times more per capita emissions.
According to government data, till March 2019, the total functional buses in Delhi were 5576 – 3897 DTC buses and 1679 cluster buses. This is despite a Supreme Court order in 1998, which has instructed the government to increase the fleet strength to 10000 buses by 2001. The city’s increased commuting demand can only be met with the addition of another 10000 buses to the fleet. This will also have a drastic impact on the emission levels.
Demand 2: The government of NCT of Delhi and the Union Government should reduce fares on the Delhi Metro
Currently Metro transport is more expensive than other modes of transport. The fare on the Delhi Metro has been hiked recently, and the growth in passenger traffic has plateaued after this hike. The high rates deter people from using the Metro as a daily commute mode, and force them to use more polluting options – including private passenger vehicles.
The promotion of public transportation by subsidising it has been implemented successfully by European countries like Germany and Estonia. In Estonia alone, the implementation of subsidised travel, has increased the share of public transportation to 63% in a single year.
Reduction of Delhi Metro fares through subsidisation can result in the increased adoption of Metro transport system by the daily commuters. The costs incurred for this may be shared on a 50:50 basis between the Delhi & the Central governments.
Demand 3: The Union Government should levy an additional excise duty of Rs. 80,000 on diesel passenger cars
The Kirit Parikh committee, appointed by the Central Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, had proposed in 2010 that an additional cess of Rs. 80,000 be levied on sale of each diesel passenger vehicle to ensure that diesel vehicles are not cheaper than petrol vehicles. We demand that this recommendation be implemented, with an objective to regulate the sales of such vehicles.
The additional cess thus collected can be used to strengthen public transportation infrastructure or to subsidise passenger costs.
Demand 4: The MCD and NDMC should work with urban local bodies (ULBs) to disseminate and enforce regulatory directives to control dust generated at construction or demolition sites.
Due to the high urban agglomeration in Delhi, there are a number of construction and demolition activities taking place across the city. Ready-mix concrete mixture, which is used for construction activities, also emits a large amount of fly ash that contributes to air pollution. According to a 2016 IIT Kanpur Report, dust from construction sites contributes approximately 3.6% of the total emissions towards PM10 and 2.1% of the total emissions towards PM2.5. Irrespective of its total contribution to air pollution, it effect on populations and workers proximate to the activity site cannot be overlooked.
The health effects of construction dust on residents around construction sites has not been widely documented, but there is no doubt about the harmful effect on construction workers, who are in any case, a vulnerable group. A large proportion of such workers tend to be migrants, with no stable access to healthcare or any form of social security.
There are no silver bullet technological solutions to reduce the negative environmental and health impact of construction and demolition related activities. This is one area where modest measures such as using filters on concrete mixers, erecting screens and wind-breakers, sprinkling water and transporting construction material in closed vehicles, etc; can have a considerable impact but these need to be enforced through better coordination between different government agencies.
To ensure area based enforcement of these measures, steps should also be taken to empower RWAs to monitor construction activities and allow citizens to register complaints regarding dust at construction sites through their phones.
Demand 5: The Central government along with the State governments of Punjab and Haryana, should establish transportation systems and mechanisms for transferring crop residue from farms to units that utilise agro-residue.
Crop residue burning in the north-western states of Punjab and Haryana is a key reason why levels of finer particulate matter up to 2.5 micron in size (PM 2.5) in the air spike upto 20 times in Delhi NCR during harvest season in the winter. Reducing or eliminating crop burning has a two pronged impact: One, farmers believe that burning crop residue improves helps control diseases and pests in crops, and promotes propagation and rotation. But in reality it causes damage to other microorganisms present in the upper layer of the soil as well as its organic quality, resulting in the loss of fertility and essential micronutrients within the soil. Two, pollution from crop residue burning is a major risk factor for acute respiratory infection (ARI) in all three states, especially among children younger than five. The health burden of this activity affects the poor farmers and their families as much as residents of the capital city.
Many measures have been taken by the Union and State governments from regulatory bans, educating farmers to subsidisation of machinery; but these have created incremental change. There is little point in adopting punitive approaches to farmers burning crop residues. Farmers who are already squeezed by low crop prices and rising input prices are understandably averse to spending more money on tractors to plough and thresh the residues back into the field as manure; and also do not get a remunerative price for the crop stubble if they do spend on the labour or machinery to remove it.
Governments including the union agriculture ministry need to get together to devise a system to incentivise farmers to deal with this problem and recover some of the costs through utilisation of the agro-residue to make a variety of possible products.
Power generating units have been set up in Punjab and Haryana. Crop residue biomass can be sent to these units so that power is generated from it. But it does not make economic sense for either farmers or power generating unit owners to harvest and transfer crop residue. The governments of Punjab, Haryana and the Central government should incur costs and set up a machinery to gather and transport crop residue during harvest. This can be done either through subsidies to farmers’ cooperatives or as a state procurement activity.